Investing in Parks to Improve Fair Oaks’ Future

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG)  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - In November, Fair Oaks residents will be asked to vote on Measure J, a $26.9 million general obligation bond program, which, if approved, would give the Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District the funds needed to upgrade and renovate the grounds and facilities of existing parks and acquire and develop land for new parks.

The District’s current budget only covers the cost of ongoing maintenance and small repairs. They are proposing the bond because many of Fair Oaks’ parks and recreation facilities are outdated and declining at a rapid rate. The majority of the parks and facilities were built in the 1920s through 1950s. Although the District has worked hard to maintain them, general maintenance and upkeep is no longer enough for some of the oldest parks.

The general obligation bond will be repaid to investors over the course of 30 years from a tax increase on all taxable property within the boundaries of the District. The cost of Measure J for Fair Oaks residents will be based on property owners’ annual assessed valuation. The District estimates that the tax rate per property owner would be $19 per $100,000 of annual assessed valuation, based on the County’s value assessment. The market value of the property would not be relevant; the tax rate would be based on only the assessed valuation, which is generally lower than market value. So if your property tax statement lists your current assessed valuation at $300,000, then your annual share of the bond repayment would be $57.

Funds from Measure J can only be spent within the District on physical improvements to the parks. None of the money will go to increase District salaries. A local independent citizens’ oversight committee will be established to oversee the expenditure of the funds, which the District will use to renovate and modernize aging recreation facilities. The District would repair or replace outdated restrooms, upgrade electrical systems that are no longer up to standards, and improve safety and security measures. Funds would also be used on new projects to accommodate growth in the Fair Oaks community. The improvements would increase the aesthetic value of the parks and would provide new recreational opportunities local families.

The District has prepared a Facilities Needs Analysis, which specifies some of the major renovation projects they plan to undertake with Measure J funds: provide additional sports fields for youth recreation at Phoenix Park; update the recreational facilities at Village Park, Plaza Park, and the Community Clubhouse; and create additional recreation space for senior citizen, teen, and youth programs by replacing the McMillan Center in Fair Oaks Park.

For Justin Drake, Campaign Chairman for Measure J, replacing the McMillan Center is a top priority. Because the center is a rental facility, it provides revenue for the District. He said the center could attract a lot more revenue if it were larger and more visually appealing; “People pass over Fair Oaks for places with better amenities.” Drake said, “Parks are evolving from a place you look at and sit in the grass, to places where you are active and involved,” he said. With improvements to the parks, Drake hopes to see more activities to engage the community: corn-hole tournaments, painting in the park, musical entertainment, beer tasting, etc. 

“When people consider moving to Fair Oaks, but they find our public facilities to be second rate, they won’t want to buy here,” said Ralph Carhart, Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District board member. Improving the parks gives Fair Oaks the opportunity to compete with neighboring communities to attract new people to the area. He said, “Investing in the parks is a way to reinvest in the community.”

Drake stated that although no one likes tax increases, the bond proposal has a lot of support in the community and no one has formed an opposition group. The measure has received endorsements from many community members, including Honorary Mayor of Fair Oaks Keith Wright and former California Assemblyman Roger Niello. In his support of the bond, Niello has said, “Measure J makes good sense. It will contribute to Fair Oaks’ high quality of life by upgrading and renovating our parks and recreational facilities. That, in turn will help maintain our property values.”

The park improvements that would be made possible with the passage of Measure J will also have larger positive implications for Fair Oaks. The District would be able to acquire and develop additional park land, which would protect natural open spaces in the area while also giving the community expanded recreational opportunities. Improving the parks, and adding more parks, increases the likelihood that local families will spend time outdoors, which will improve the overall health of the community. Improving the parks in the district will increase property values, attract more people to the area, and create a deeper sense of community engagement for local residents.